In Touching Video, People with Alzheimer’s Tell Us Which Memories They Never Want to Forget

in Biology, Health, Life, Science | July 22nd, 2016

Director Hirokazu Kore-eda‘s 1999 film Afterlife tasks its recently deceased characters with choosing a single memory to take with them, as they move into the great unknown.

The subjects of “On Memory,” above, are all very much alive, but they too, have great cause to sift through a lifetime’s worth of memories. All have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. They range in age from 48 to 70. Two have been living with their diagnoses for six years. The baby of the group received hers just last year.

Those who have no personal connection to Alzheimer’s are likely to have a clearer picture of the disease’s advanced stage than its early presentation. A few minutes with Myriam Marquez, Lon Cole, Frances Smersh, Irene Japha, Nancy Johnson, and Bob Wellington should remedy that.

All six are able to recall and describe the significant events of their youth. At the interviewer’s request, they reflect on the pain of losing beloved parents and the pleasure of first kisses. Their powers of sensory recall bring back their earliest memories, including what the weather was like that day.

The recent past? Much hazier. At present, these individuals’ mild cognitive impairment resemble benign age-related memory slips quite closely. Their diagnoses are what lends urgency to their answers. The prospect of forgetting children and spouse’s names is very real to them.

Knowledge of the interviewees’ diagnoses can’t but help sharpen viewers’ eyes for distinct facial expressions, speech patterns, and individual temperaments. They share a common diagnosis, but for now, there’s no difficulty distinguishing between the six unique personalities, each informed by a wealth of experience.

The video is a step up for viral video producer Cut, creator of such internet sensations as the Truth or Drink series and Grandmas Smoking Weed for the First Time. This video, which directs viewers to the Alzheimer’s Association for more information, deserves an even wider audience.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday

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Marie Curie Attended a Secret, Underground “Flying University” When Women Were Banned from Polish Universities

in History, Science | July 21st, 2016

curie underground education

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Marie Curie has long stood in the pantheon of scientists for her research on radioactivity — research so close to the subject that, as we posted about last year, her papers remain radioactive over a century later. She’s also become the most prominent historical role model for female students with an interest in science, not least because of the obstacles she had to surmount to arrive at the position where she could do her research in the first place. Born in 19th-century Poland to a family financially humbled by their participation in political struggles for independence from Russia (whose authorities took laboratory instruction out of the country’s schools), she hardly had a smooth road to follow, or even much of a road at all.

“I was only fifteen when I finished my high-school studies, always having held first rank in my class,” Curie wrote of those years. “The fatigue of growth and study compelled me to take almost a year’s rest in the country.” But when she returned to the capital, she couldn’t continue her formal learning there, given the University of Warsaw‘s refusal to admit women. So she continued her learning informally, getting involved with the “Flying University” (or “Floating University”) that in the late 19th and early 20th century clandestinely offered an education in ever-changing locations, often private houses, throughout the city. (Over 5,000 Poles, male and female, benefited from its services, including the writer Zofia Nałkowska and doctor Janusz Korczak.)

Marie Curie and the Science of Radioactivity author Naomi Pasachoff writes that “the mission of the patriotic participants of the Floating University,” as its name is also translated, “was to bring about Poland’s eventual freedom by enlarging and strengthening its educated classes.” Youngsters eager to read more about Curie’s experience there might like to read Marie Curie and the Discovery of Radium, whose authors Ann E. Steinke and Roger Xavier write of Curie’s experience listening to “lessons on anatomy, natural history, and sociology. In turn she gave lessons to women from poor families.” She would later describe her time there as the origin of her interest in experimental scientific work.

With their sights set on Western Europe, Curie (then Maria Skłodowska) and her sister Bronislawa (known as Bronya) made a pact: “Maria would work as a governess to help pay for Bronya’s medical studies in Paris. As soon as Bronya was trained and began to earn money, she would help cover the costs of Maria’s university training.” Curie earned two degrees in Paris in 1893 and 1894, and her first Nobel Prize in 1903. The Flying University lasted until 1905, and the operation would later return to activity in the late 1970s and early 80s with Poland under the thumb of communism. We now live in more enlightened times, with proper educations, scientific or otherwise, available to students male or female across most of the world — thanks to the will that drove unconventional institutions like the Flying University, and its unconventional students like Marie Curie.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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The Secret Link Between Jazz and Physics: How Einstein & Coltrane Shared Improvisation and Intuition in Common

in Music, Physics, Science, TED Talks | July 9th, 2016

Scientists need hobbies. The grueling work of navigating complex theory and the politics of academia can get to a person, even one as laid back as Dartmouth professor and astrophysicist Stephon Alexander. So Alexander plays the saxophone, though at this point it may not be accurate to call his avocation a spare time pursuit, since John Coltrane has become as important to him as Einstein, Kepler, and Newton.

Coltrane, he says in a 7-minute TED talk above, “changed my whole research direction… led to basically a discovery in physics.” Alexander then proceeds to play the familiar opening bars of “Giant Steps.” He’s no Coltrane, but he is a very creative thinker whose love of jazz has given him a unique perspective on theoretical physics, one he shares, it turns out, with both Einstein and Coltrane, both of whom saw music and physics as intuitive, improvisatory pursuits.

Alexander describes his jazz epiphany as occasioned by a complex diagram Coltrane gave legendary jazz musician and University of Massachusetts professor Yusef Lateef in 1967. “I thought the diagram was related to another and seemingly unrelated field of study—quantum gravity,” he writes in a Business Insider essay on his discovery, “What I had realized… was that the same geometric principle that motivated Einstein’s theory was reflected in Coltrane’s diagram.”

The theory might “immediately sound like untestable pop-philosophy,” writes the Creators Project, who showcase Alexander’s physics-inspired musical collaboration with experimental producer Rioux (sample below). But his ideas are much more substantive, “a compelling cross-disciplinary investigation,” recently published in a book titled The Jazz of Physics: The Secret Link Between Music and the Structure of the Universe.

Alexander describes the links between jazz and physics in his TED talk, as well as in the brief Wired video further up. “One connection,” he says, is “the mysterious way that quantum particles move…. According to the rules of quantum mechanics,” they “will actually traverse all possible paths.” This, Alexander says, parallels the way jazz musicians improvise, playing with all possible notes in a scale. His own improvisational playing, he says, is greatly enhanced by thinking about physics. And in this, he’s only following in the giant steps of both of his idols.

It turns out that Coltrane himself used Einstein’s theoretical physics to inform his understanding of jazz composition. As Ben Ratliff reports in Coltrane: The Story of a Sound, the brilliant saxophonist once delivered to French horn player David Amram an “incredible discourse about the symmetry of the solar system, talking about black holes in space, and constellations, and the whole structure of the solar system, and how Einstein was able to reduce all of that complexity into something very simple.” Says Amram:

Then he explained to me that he was trying to do something like that in music, something that came from natural sources, the traditions of the blues and jazz. But there was a whole different way of looking at what was natural in music.

This may all sound rather vague and mysterious, but Alexander assures us Coltrane’s method is very much like Einstein’s in a way: “Einstein is famous for what is perhaps his greatest gift: the ability to transcend mathematical limitations with physical intuition. He would improvise using what he called gedankenexperiments (German for thought experiments), which provided him with a mental picture of the outcome of experiments no one could perform.”

Einstein was also a musician—as we’ve noted before—who played the violin and piano and whose admiration for Mozart inspired his theoretical work. “Einstein used mathematical rigor,” writes Alexander, as much as he used “creativity and intuition. He was an improviser at heart, just like his hero, Mozart.” Alexander has followed suit, seeing in the 1967 “Coltrane Mandala” the idea that “improvisation is a characteristic of both music and physics.” Coltrane “was a musical innovator, with physics at his fingertips,” and “Einstein was an innovator in physics, with music at his fingertips.”

Alexander gets into a few more specifics in his longer TEDx talk above, beginning with some personal background on how he first came to understand physics as an intuitive discipline closely linked with music. For the real meat of his argument, you’ll likely want to read his book, highly praised by Nobel-winning physicist Leon Cooper, futuristic composer Brian Eno, and many more brilliant minds in both music and science.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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Carl Sagan Presents a Mini-Course on Earth, Mars & What’s Beyond Our Solar System: For Kids and Adults (1977)

in Education, K-12, Science | June 16th, 2016

Despite the intensive focus on STEM (as opposed to STEAM—a debate for another day), Americans still find themselves falling far behind in science education. According to the National Math and Science Initiative, U.S. students placed 20th in science in a recent ranking of 34 countries. “The way the U.S. teaches science,” argues Popular Science, “simply doesn’t work…. Since scientists don’t just stand around memorizing stuff, students shouldn’t either.” The approach isn’t only counter to the scientific method; it’s tedious and doesn’t engage that most important of intellectual faculties: curiosity.

The problems are beyond pedagogy, as we know from polls that show upwards of 42% of Americans subscribing to literalist interpretations of their religious texts, and actively rejecting scientific thinking. These cultural roadblocks were very familiar to Carl Sagan, who spent a good part of his career attempting to coax the public out of its belief in a “demon-haunted world.” As a science educator, Sagan not only knew how to draw out the childlike awe in grown-ups, but also how to engage the natural curiosity of children, who—as every parent knows—long to know the why of everything.

“As a child,” Sagan said of his formative years, “it was my immense good fortune to have parents and a few good teachers who encouraged my curiosity.” Now, whether or not kids have such parents or teachers, thanks to the internet, they have Carl Sagan, and specifically, they have Sagan’s Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, six talks he delivered in 1977 to eager, curious kids. Sagan taught on his usual topic: Planets, beginning with “The Earth as a Planet,” at the top of the post. As he mentions in his introduction, his lecture almost falls on the 150th anniversary of the first Christmas Lecture, a distinguished scientific tradition begun in 1825 by Michael Faraday at Britain’s Royal Institution.

Sagan’s first talk “explores the diversity of life on our own planet,” writes the Royal Institution, “and the building blocks behind it.” Then, he moves on to “questioning whether the same organic chemistry is occurring on planets in the outer solar system” in his second lecture, above. In the following three talks, below, Sagan takes us to Mars, a planet he helped explore without ever leaving the ground with his theories in the late 60s about the nature of the planet’s surface—theories later confirmed several years later by the Viking Project. Sagan’s talks below—“The History of Mars,” “Mars Before Viking,” and “Mars After Viking”—share the latest research with his young audience. With models of the planet and the Viking spacecraft, Sagan demonstrates in detail how NASA obtained its data.

The History of Mars

Mars Before Viking

Mars After Viking”>Mars After Viking

In his final Royal Institution Christmas Lecture, below, “Planetary Systems Beyond the Sun,” Sagan ventures far beyond the reach of NASA’s instruments (at the time) to speculate on what might lie beyond the Solar System. But first, he orients us—again using models and space photography—by explaining what a solar system is, and why other systems likely resemble ours. In his own scientific career, Sagan was instrumental in promoting the SETI Institute—which now has a center named after him. He believed unflaggingly in the possibility of extraterrestrial life, which he hypothesized based on many of the observations he shares below.

When Sagan delivered these lectures, the Royal Institution points out, “NASA had only just begun its Voyager program to the furthest planets in our solar system and no extra-solar planets were known to exist. Now, over three decades later, astronomers are looking at planets that lie beyond our solar system to ask the very same question we pondered over Mars: is there life out there?” As you may have heard, NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered a “habitable zone” of planets in another solar system with two suns—a find sure to pique the curiosity of kids of all ages, and one that would have excited Sagan to no end.

See Sagan’s Christmas lectures with better video and audio quality at the Royal Institution’s website, and please—whether you’re a parent, teacher, older sibling, etc.—share these with the kids in your life.

These lectures will be added to our collection, 1200 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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Live Stream the World Science Festival, Starting (Now) with This Tribute to Oliver Sacks

in Science | June 1st, 2016

A quick heads up: The World Science Festival is getting underway today in New York City. Throughout the week (June 1-5), the festival will stage 50 live programs that bring together great minds in science and the arts. A number of them you can stream free online, including “Awakening the Mind: A Celebration of the Life and Work of Oliver Sacks.” Watch it now (5pm CA time) right above. For a complete list of streamable events, click here.

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Can You Pass This Test Originally Given to 8th Graders Living in Kentucky in 1912?

in Education, History, K-12, Math, Science | May 20th, 2016


Can you spell “conceive”?

Of course you can! All it takes is a device with a built-in spelling app, an innovation of which no eighth grader in the far western reaches of bluegrass area Kentucky could have conceived back in 1912.

They were, however, expected to be able to name the waters though which an English vessel would pass en route to Manila via the Suez Canal.

Can you?

While we’re at it, how much do you really know about the human liver? Enough to locate it, identify its secretions, and discourse on its size relative to other bodily glands?

If you answered yes, congratulations. There’s a good chance you’d be promoted to high school back in 1912. Not bad for a kid attending a one-room school in rural Bullit County.

And now for some extra credit, name the last battles of the Civil War, the War of 1812, and the French and Indian War. Commanding officers, too…

That’s the sort of multipart question that awaited the eighth graders converging on the Bullit County courthouse for 1912’s common exam, above. The very same courthouse in which the modern day Bullitt County History Museum is located. A civic-minded individual donated a copy of the test to this institution, and the staff put it online, thinking it might be fun for latter-day specimens like you and me to see how we measure up.

So—just for fun—try typing the phrase “commanding officer last battle french & indian war” into your search engine of choice. Forget instant gratification. Embrace the anxiety!

Common wisdom holds that standardized tests are a lot harder than they used to be. But looking at the sort of stuff your average eighth grader had to regurgitate two years prior to the start of WW1, I’m not so sure…

Thank god the Internet was there to define “kalsomining” for me. Even with the aid of a calculator, math is not my strong suit. That said, I’m usually good enough with words to get the narrative gist of any story problem.


I confess, I was so demoralized by my ignorance, I couldn’t have dreamed of attempting to figure out how much it would cost to “kalsomine” a 20 x 16 x 9 foot room, especially with a door and window involved.

Fortunately, the Bullit County Genealogical Society has seen fit to provide an online answer sheet, a digital luxury that would have gobsmacked their forebears.

SPOILER: $8.01. That’s the amount it would’ve cost to kalsomine your room at 1912 prices. (A steal, considering that a quart of White Wash Pickling Water Based Stain will run you $12.37 a quart at a nationally known hardware superstore today.)

Go ahead, take that test.

If you quail at the prospect of faring poorly against a rural 1912 eighth grader, just imagine how well he or she would do, teleported to 2016, and forced to contend with such mysteries as cyber bullying, gender politics, and offensive eggplant emojis

via The Paris Review.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. She lives in fear that her youngest child will pen a memoir titled I Was a Homeschooled 8th Grader and Other Chillling True Life Tales. Follow her @AyunHalliday

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170 Renowned Academics Talk About Why They Disbelieve, or Believe, in God

in Philosophy, Physics, Religion, Science | May 11th, 2016

Whether we choose to affiliate with any sort of atheist movement or not, many people raised in theistic religions came over time to see God as a literary character in ancient mythologies and historical fictions, as a placeholder for human ignorance, or as a personification of humanity’s greatest fears and desires. The notion that such a personal super-being actually exists has become for many of us, in William James’ terms, a “dead hypothesis.” As physicist Lawrence Krauss puts it in the video above, “there’s absolutely no evidence that we need the supernatural hand of God” to explain the universe. Religions give us fanciful stories, illustrate ethical (and unethical) principles, and enforce tribal loyalties, but they do not describe reality as it is.

We all come to hold our beliefs, or lack thereof, about religious claims for an irreducibly complex variety of reasons that are intellectual as well as moral, political, and emotional. Can we demonstrate, however, that “the more scientifically literate, intellectually honest and objectively sceptical a person is, the more likely they are to disbelieve in anything supernatural, including god”? Such is the thesis of Dr. Jonathan Pararajasignham’s documentary 50 Renowned Academics Speaking About God, which consists of edited clips from interviews with “elite academics and professors at top institutions, many of whom are also Nobel Laureates.” The claim appears on the screen in each of the three videos above and below, framing the interview clips as mounting evidence for the convincing case that disbelief is strongly correlated with, if not necessarily caused by, scientific literacy, intellectual honesty, and skepticism.

Since his first video, Pararajasingham has expanded his series to include 100 more “Renowned Academics Speaking About God.” (See Parts Two and Three of the series above.) On the videos’ Youtube pages, he anticipates a ready objection, writing, “I do not claim that this video demonstrates there is no God. It is not an argument against God in itself, so there is no argument from popularity and authority.” If you’ve already arrived at the conclusion, you’ll find it confirmed many times over by a cast that includes physicists like Krauss, Richard Feynman, and Steven Weinberg, philosophers like A.C. Graying, Bertrand Russell, and John Searle, and far too many more illustrious thinkers to name. (See a complete list on the Youtube pages of each video.) In addition to well-known atheist writers like Daniel Dennett, the series also features academics like anthropologist Pascal Boyer, whose book Religion Explained makes a novel and very persuasive naturalistic argument for why humans have believed in the supernatural for thousands of years.

Believers may counter with their own list of smart people who do believe in God, and who also work in the hard sciences and academic philosophy, including renowned figures like Human Genome Project director Francis Collins and physicist Freeman Dyson. Whether or not they’d wish to claim failed presidential candidate Ben Carson or religious apologists Dinesh D’Souza and Ravi Zacharias as examples of “intellectual honesty and scientific literacy” I couldn’t say, but all of those people and more are included in the video above, 20 Christian Academics Speaking About God, which Pararajasingham produced as a counterpoint to his 50 Academics series. Find the complete list of names for this video, along with links to complete interviews, on Youtube.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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Discover Harvard’s Collection of 2,500 Pigments: Preserving the World’s Rare, Wonderful Colors

in Art, Harvard, Museums, Science | April 29th, 2016

If modern paint companies’ pretentiously-named color palettes gall you to the point of an exclusively black-and-white existence, the Harvard Art Museums’ Forbes pigment collection will prove a welcome balm.

The hand and typewritten labels identifying the collection’s 2500+ pigments boast none of the flashy “creativity” that J. Crew employs to peddle its cashmere Boyfriend Cardigans.
Pigment Collection

Images by Harvard News

The benign, and wholly unexciting-sounding “emerald green” is —unsurprisingly—the exact shade legions of Oz fans have come to expect. The thrills here are chemical, not conferred. A mix of crystalline powder copper acetoarsenite, this emerald’s fumes sickened penniless artists as adroitly as they repelled insects.

Look how nicely it goes with Van Gogh’s ruddy hair…

Van Gogh Harvard

“Mummy” is perhaps the closest the Forbes collection comes to 21st- century pigment naming. As Harvard’s Director of the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, Narayan Khandekar, notes in the video above, its mushroom shade is no great shakes. The source—the resin used to seal mummies’ bandages—is what distinguishes it.


The collection’s crown jewel is a rich ball of mustard-y Indian Yellow. This pigment comes not from maize, nor earth, but from the dehydrated urine of a cow subsisting exclusively on mango leaves. I’m drawn to it like a moth to the living room walls. I’m sure Benjamin Moore had his reasons for dubbing its urine-free facsimile “Sunny Days.”

pigment_vault India Yellow

The images above, save the Van Gogh painting, comes courtesy of by Harvard News. The video above was created by Great Big Story.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday

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The “Brain Dictionary”: Beautiful 3D Map Shows How Different Brain Areas Respond to Hearing Different Words

in English Language, Science | April 28th, 2016

We’ve all had those moments of struggle to come up with le mot juste, in our native language or a foreign one. But when we look for a particular word, where exactly do we go to find it? Neuroscientists at Berkeley have made a fascinating start on answering that question by going in the other direction, mapping out which parts of the brain respond to the sound of certain words, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to watch the action on the cerebral cortices of people listening to The Moth Radio Hour — a popular storytelling podcast you yourself may have spent some time with, albeit under somewhat different circumstances.

“No single brain region holds one word or concept,” writes The Guardian‘s Ian Sample on the “brain dictionary” thus developed by researcher Jack Gallant and his team. “A single brain spot is associated with a number of related words. And each single word lights up many different brain spots. Together they make up networks that represent the meanings of each word we use: life and love; death and taxes; clouds, Florida and bra. All light up their own networks.”

Sample quotes Alexander Huth, the first author on the study: “It is possible that this approach could be used to decode information about what words a person is hearing, reading, or possibly even thinking.” You can learn more about this promising research in the short video from Nature above, which shows how the team mapped out how, during those Moth listening sessions, “different bits of the brain responded to different kinds of words”: some regions lit up in response to those having to do with numbers, for instance, others in response to “social words,” and others in response to those indicating place.

You can also browse this brain dictionary yourself in 3D on the Gallant Lab’s web site, which lets you click on any part of the cortex and see a cluster of the words which generated the most activity there. The other neuroscientists quoted in the Guardian piece acknowledge both the thrilling (if slightly scary, in terms of thought-reading possibilities in the maybe-not-that-far-flung future) implications of the work as well as the huge amount of unknowns that remain. The response of the podcasting community has so far gone unrecorded, but surely they’d like to see the research extended in the direction of other linguistically intensive shows — Marc Maron’s WTF, perhaps.

via The Guardian

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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What Makes the Stradivarius Special? It Was Designed to Sound Like a Female Soprano Voice, With Notes Sounding Like Vowels, Says Researcher

in Music, Science | April 27th, 2016

What makes violins made by the Stradivari and Guarneri families as valuable to musicians as they are to collectors? And how do we measure the optimal sound quality of a violin? One answer comes from violin maker Anton Krutz, who speculates that these highly-prized classical instruments sing so sweetly because they are “made with proportions and spirals based on Golden Ratio geometry.”

Perhaps. But Joseph Nagyvary, a professor emeritus in biochemistry at Texas A&M University, discovered another, less lofty reason for the distinctive sound of these coveted instruments. As Texas A&M Today reports, during his 25 years of research on Stradivarius and Guarneri violins, Nagyvary found that the two makers “soaked their instruments in chemicals such as borax and brine to protect them from a worm infestation that was sweeping through Italy in the 1700s. By pure accident the chemicals used to protect the wood had the unintended result of producing the unique sounds that have been almost impossible to duplicate in the past 400 years.”

Though violins have always been made to imitate the human voice, the uniqueness of the Stradivari and Guarneri violins, Nagyvary set out to prove, results in especially humanlike tones. In a recent 2013 study published in the stringed instrument science periodical Savart Journal, Nagyvary presented research showing, writes Live Science, that these prized Italian instruments “produced several vowel sounds, including the Italian ‘i’ and ‘e’ sounds and several vowel sounds from French and English.” Whether by chemical accident or grand geometric design, “the great violin masters were making violins with more humanlike voices than any others of the time.”

Seeking, as Nagyvary says in the short video above, to “define what was the standard of excellence for the violin sound,” he decided to measure the Stradivari and Guarneri-made instruments against the original model for their timbre: the female soprano voice. To compare the two, he had Itzhak Perlman record a scale on a 1743 Guarneri violin, then asked Metropolitan Opera soprano Emily Pulley to record her voice while she sang various vowel sounds. Nagyvary analyzed the harmonic content of both recordings with a computer program and mapped the results against each other.

His project, writes Texas A&M Today, effectively “proved that the sounds of Pulley’s voice and the violin’s could be located on the same map… and their respective graphic images can be directly compared.” The Guarneri violin does indeed exactly mimic the tones of the singing human voice, replicating vowel sounds from Old Italian and other European languages.

Nagyvary thinks his findings “could change how violins may be valued”—for their sound rather than for the label inside the instrument. A violin maker himself, the former biochemistry professor also suggests a more practical application for his research findings: they might teach violin makers how to improve the quality of their instruments. Nagyvary’s scientific approach may offer luthiers the exact chemical composition and the measurable tonal qualities of the Stradivarius, enabling them to finally duplicate these beloved Renaissance instruments.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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